Posted: Dec. 11, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Even people who study political history are doomed to repeat it. The election was proof.

Mid-term after mid-term after mid-term, the president's party gets pounded at the polls. It is predictable. It almost seems practically preordained. Still, it was not preventable for Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2014.

The only possible defense is a president whose approval rating is above 65 percent, and this was not Obama. Presidential popularity saved the Republicans with the second George Bush in 2002 and the Democrats with Bill Clinton in 1998.

Delaware followed right along with the rest of the country. In a state as deeply Democratic blue as Delaware is, the losses were blunted, but they came nevertheless.

The Republicans elected someone new to statewide office for the first time in 20 years, when Ken "Let's Make It" Simpler won the treasurer's race, although it is arguable which Democrat should take the underlying blame for this one. Obama or Chip Flowers?

The fallout for the Democrats in Washington was cataclysmic.

The Republicans flipped the Senate their way by 54-46 and swelled their control of the House of Representatives to 247-188 (including a Republican-leaning recount still in progress in Arizona.) It is their largest majority since the 1926 election, although not a record.

The Republicans' largest majority ever was 301 seats after the 1920 election, when their party elected Warren G. Harding as president. The all-time high belongs to the Democrats with 331 seats, courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt's election to his second term in 1936.

The Democrats in Dover were in no such danger. They went into the election in charge of both chambers in the General Assembly and came out the same way, although there was some shrinkage -- a loss of one seat in the state Senate to put their majority at 12-9 and two seats in the state House of Representatives to make it 25-16.

Delaware mirrored the country in another way.

The conservative bastion of the Solid South is solidly Republican, without a Democratic senator in a 10-state swath from North Carolina to Texas, and lower Delaware with its own conservative inclinations has only a single Democratic legislator south of Dover, although it might as well be this one, since it is Pete Schwartzkopf, the speaker.

Say it ain't so, Obama. Yet it is. Delaware fell like the rest of the country to the curse of the mid-terms.

It should be noted the Democrats here actually beat the curse once, without the lift from a popular president, when Christine "I'm Not a Witch" O'Donnell ran for the Senate at the top of the Republican ticket in 2010, and the Republicans sort of did, halfway through Ronald Reagan's second term in 1986.

It can all be suitably charted for the past 50 years:

Election President Party October approval rating Congressional seats Legislative seats
1966 Johnson Democrat 44% -51 -22
1970 Nixon Republican 58% -10   -3
1974 Nixon/Ford Republican 53% -53   -8
1978 Carter Democrat 49% -18   -5
1982 Reagan Republican 42% -25 -10
1986 Reagan Republican 64% -13 no change
1990 Bush I Republican 57%   -9   -1
1994 Clinton Democrat 48% -60   -7
1998 Clinton Democrat 65%   +5   +2
2002 Bush II Republican 67% +10   +3
2006 Bush II Republican 37% -36   -3
2010 Obama Democrat 45% -69   +1
2014 Obama Democrat 41% -22   -3

Sources: American Presidency Project, University of California, Santa Barbara; Center for Politics, University of Virginia; Delaware election returns